The older I get, the more I wonder at certain of the people around me, the things they profess to enjoy, and the way they behave. In some respects, I confess, my puzzlement is my own fault; I simply cannot be bothered to find out. It was like that all those years ago when, at Grammar School, I failed to grasp the rules of cricket: why on earth was there a batsman at each end: who on earth was playing whom? I gave up; the cricket master gave up on me as well, banishing me to a position far out on the field where, thank goodness, no ball ever seemed to come my way. It is much the same today when I decline a glass of champagne, still wondering why anyone in his right mind should choose to ferment perfectly good fruit juice. But things go much beyond that; whether I am confronted with Sudoku, apps (whatever they may be) or the lamentable things of which electioneering politicians try to persuade me, I turn away, sigh quietly, and give up. I don’t after all, need any of them. More than occasionally I am reminded of the lines penned a century ago by one Walter Alexander Raleigh:
“I wish I loved the Human Race; I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks, I wish I liked the way it talks……” (1)
Plainly, if I am to seek clarification of even some of these matters, I do not have all that much time left to take action. And that is why, the other day, I was much taken by a small circular from an address in Southern Belgium that tumbled through my letterbox, inviting me to direct my thoughts to the matter of reincarnation. Consider that for a moment. Might one truly arrange to be born again? At first sight, the prospect of having another go is tempting, and the circular assures me that for the price of three International Reply Coupons I can be I initiated into the necessary procedure. Next time around, one might surely manage better, understand more, and possibly rise a little higher.
At second sight, unfortunately, the outlook seems less enticing. Granted, I shall be able to take a fresh look at many of the matters that puzzle or upset me on this occasion; that could prove rewarding. But am I really willing to spend years going again through that whole tiresome rigmarole of nappies, building blocks and multiplication tables on my tortuous way to a fresh start in adulthood? That is hardly an attractive prospect. And it was while I was turning these doubts over in my mind was that I began to recall a little blue booklet that similarly tumbled through my letterbox a number of years ago; that one, emanating from an address in Wales, sought to initiate me into the notion of cross-species reincarnation. Now how would that be – taking a fresh look at humankind from the outside? My dusty but weighty Encyclopaedia Britannica assures me that many sources of wisdom recognize rebirth in animal form as a proven reality; the Eskimos apparently know all about it; so, I assured do various Amerindian and West African cultures to name only a few. But let me not get bogged down in detail at this stage; it is the principle of the thing that really concerns me. Assuming that I shall have some choice in the matter how do I want to be reincarnated?
My first inclination was to believe that I could best return to earth as the proverbial fly on the wall, observing everything but saying nothing. However my opportunity for accumulating impressions in that situation might be all too brief, particularly given the likely proximity of spiders, sprays and fly swats, and I could be further hampered by limitations on my brainpower. I went on to think of returning to earth as an owl, clearly a wise and thoughtful creature: alas, the owl has little opportunity to study more of human behaviour than what might be learnt from peering through uncurtained bedroom windows, and that could provide a somewhat unbalanced picture. For such reasons I have settled for a choice that I should have made at the outset. I wish to return as a dog; and not just any dog. I wish to be reincarnated as a Yellow Labrador Retriever.
That choice hardly needs to be defended. Here you have an animal that is likely to have access to every room in the house, and to be as happy tumbling with a toddler as licking the ears of a dowager duchess. A dog that listens and learns. A beast that whimpers when the family is sorrowful, rejoices when it is joyful, a creature that frowns when it is puzzled but always has understanding in its eyes. No, my choice is obvious, and no matter what the Vicar may say, I am going to take action. So what on earth did I do with that little blue booklet?
(1) Raleigh W. A. Wishes of an Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914.